On Writing about Home

Naomi Hawkins-Rowe

It’s 2020, folks. Don’t you just love how that rolls off the tongue? We here at Write Owls hope that you are beginning your year with the beautiful sound of click-clacking on computer keys (or a typewriter if that’s your preference), and a list of goals, both set in reality and in daydreams (because we need those too, especially now.)

I, like most people, have thought long and hard about what I wanted to do and changefor the upcoming year, for the end or beginning of a decade depending on who you ask. After going through the usual list of go-to-sleep-early-and-eat-better resolutions, I decided the only real goal I was going to make for 2020,  after years of avoiding it, was to write about the beautiful and complex place that I grew up.

I’ll admit there are a plethora of reasons for avoiding that story, here are a few:
1. Who would want to read a story about a small town in California
2. Writing about it made me terribly homesick
3. Writing about it made me relive growing up there, not all of it was pleasant
4. Writing about it feels too “autobiographical”
5. Writing about it makes me feel vulnerable and exposed

It’s a lovely list of excuses really.

After spending years working on a story set in, as I believed, a more interesting place, I felt that aching thing we writers occasionally experience: urgency. And I just couldn’t ignore the pull anymore. For the first time, I felt ready to dive in and explore this otherworldly place I felt so keen to avoid. I felt ready to do what we are supposed to do as writers: tell the stories in our hearts and lay ourselves bare and naked. For me that means telling the story of where  I was “made”: on a granite mountainside, under a sea of Ponderosa Pines.

When the last issue of the New York Times Magazine came out for 2019, there was a quote by Toni Morrison printed on the cover which read: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.” As a long time Morrison fan, it felt like permission or a nudge to not be afraid. The place I grew up is beautiful and interesting to me. It’s my job to make it beautiful and interesting to my reader. And, I suppose, a little bit human too.

My challenge to you this year, if you aren’t already doing it, is to get out from under yourself and write the story you feel urgent to write, even if it wakes demons, even if it makes you a little homesick along the way.

Get Writing and Happy New Year!

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